11 authors pick the best summer reads for 2021
Whether you’re planning on holidaying at home or abroad, or simply looking for something entertaining to read to while away those warm summer nights, we’ve invited a few of our favourite crime connoisseurs to hand-pick some scorching page turners to heat up your summer reading list.
With recommendations from Shari Lapena, Ragnar Jonasson and Ajay Chowdhury, amongst others, expect hard-hitting thrillers, crowd-pleasing mysteries and perfectly plotted whodunnits, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns along the way.
So, leave some room in your suitcase or carve out some time in your hectic summer diary and take your pick from this list of crime crackers.
Andrea Mara, author of All Her Fault:
One of my favourite recent reads is The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse. It has everything – an intriguing main character, dark secrets, career and relationship problems, serious family issues, and best of all, a twisty locked-room mystery set in a luxury hotel in the snowy Swiss Alps. The tense atmosphere and beautiful but cold and eerie setting were what pulled me in at first, quickly followed by a need to keep turning pages to find out what was going on – who is killing guests in the hotel, and why? Every time I thought I had it figured out, the story took another turn. And best of all, the final chapter suggests this is not the last we’ve seen of main character Elin. Loved it.
Ajay Chowdhury, author of The Waiter:
Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan. Persis Wadia is India’s first female detective who doesn’t just have to fight male prejudice and family pressures to make her way in the Bombay Police force, she has to do it in an India that has just gained independence from the British and is living with the stain of partition. From this terrific premise, Vaseem Khan spins an engrossing tale where Persis has to solve the murder of a trouserless British diplomat found dead in his mansion. She is a great protagonist – idealistic, lacking in experience, frequently saying the wrong thing but filled with an indomitable drive to find justice. The book blends humour, history and a cracking good mystery which takes us from Bombay to Delhi to the Pakistani border where Persis confronts some of the horrors of partition that slowly lead her to the solution.
Jane Corry, author of The Lies We Tell:
I was drawn to Invite Me In by Emma Curtis because the male protagonist has a controlling personality. I have come across a few of these in my time and they both scare and fascinate me. I wanted to tell the heroine to run but she has her own reasons for staying, which become clear as the novel progresses. I also like books that give backstories to the characters. We are who we are, partly because of our pasts. Invite Me In completely grabbed me – it’s a compelling page turner with intriguing characters, and I couldn’t get the characters out of my head even after I’d finished.
Lee Child, co-author of Better Off Dead:
The Night She Disappeared. No one tells stories like this better than Lisa Jewell… she gets right into it, doesn’t mess about, puts real-seeming characters with rich interior lives through 350 pages of insane suspense – and then hits us with an ending we never saw coming. I love it.
Liz Nugent, author of Our Little Cruelties:
Razorblade Tears by S A Cosby is the most astonishing crime novel I have read this year. This is a book about tolerance, acceptance, pride and yes, prejudice. Set in Virginia, our protagonist, Ike, is a Black man with a loving wife, a violent past, and a prison record who has turned his back on his old life and now runs a successful haulage company. Buddy Lee is a single white, dirt poor, trailer-park living, lonely alcoholic who has also served his time. When their sons marry each other, neither man is pleased. But when their boys are murdered, Buddy Lee and Ike join forces to avenge their deaths, slowly learning to trust each other along the way, and to accept their sons for who they were. Not for the faint-hearted, this is a high-octane action thriller that lifted me way out of my comfort zone, and I enjoyed every minute. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy read.
Nuala Ellwood, author of The Perfect Life:
My best summer read for 2021 is The Couple at No 9 by Claire Douglas. This twisty and atmospheric thriller tells the story of Saffron and Tom, a young couple who experience every new homeowner’s worst nightmare when they discover a body buried in the garden of their idyllic country cottage. When the police launch a murder investigation and link the cottage’s former owner, Saffron’s ailing grandmother, to the case, events start to spiral out of control, with devastating consequences. Claire Douglas writes beautifully, drawing the reader in to the cleverly woven story and leaving you guessing right up to the truly shocking finale. The Couple at No 9 is a thriller with a heart. Gripping yet emotive, it will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.
Shari Lapena, author of Not A Happy Family:
Damage, by Caitlin Wahrer, blew me away. The sexual assault of a young man, Nick, has devastating downstream effects for his protective older brother Tony, his brother’s wife Julia, and the detective in charge of the case. As the sexual assault case becomes complicated, Tony grows more and more inclined to take matters into his own hands, making Julia question everything she knows about her husband. This is a really assured debut and I’ve been recommending it all over. It’s anything but conventional. There are secrets here, but they’re not the ones you expect. It’s an all-consuming read, packed with tension.
Gillian McAllister, author of That Night:
My read of the summer is Damage by Caitlin Wahrer. Part family drama, part whodunnit, part police procedural, I found it to be genuinely original, gripping, emotionally intelligent, and at about two thirds of the way through the author up-ends the entire plot with just two words spoken by the detective. Unmissable.
Emma Curtis, author of Invite Me In:
I’ve just finished reading Lucky by Rachel Edwards and it is an absolute joy. Etta wants to marry Ola, but he won’t oblige until they’ve saved enough money. Seeing her perfect future slip ever further away, Etta decides to take control by gambling online. The financial consequences of her decision are predictable, the plot of this fast-paced thriller is anything but. Written with affection, an eye for detail and a wicked sense of the unexpected, you will love it. I also adored The Wedding Party by Tammy Cohen. Guests have gathered on an idyllic Greek Island to celebrate Lucy Collins’s wedding but there are tensions simmering not far below the surface. Tammy Cohen has written a fiendishly clever and entertaining thriller against a backdrop of pristine beaches and blue skies, and her writing literally sparkles. Happy reading!
Ragnar Jonasson, author of The Girl Who Died:
Peter Swanson’s Rules For Perfect Murders was one of my books of the year in 2020, and following that I started reading his previous works. So when I heard about his new title, Every Vow You Break, I immediately ordered it. Swanson certainly does not disappoint, in a thriller that Hitchcock would have been proud of, and, as always in Swanson’s books, it is impossible to put down.
Claire Douglas, author of The Couple at No 9:
I’ve read so many brilliant thrillers already this year but one I still think about is After The Silence by Louise O’Neill, which was published in June. I’m a huge fan of Louise’s beautiful and intelligent writing and After The Silence is a clever character study as well as a thought-provoking psychological thriller. During a wild party at the grand house of Henry and Keelin Kinsella there is a violent storm which cuts the island off from the mainland, trapping the residents. The next morning beautiful islander Nessa Crowley is found dead in their garden. Ten years later a documentary maker arrives to find out what really happened and if Henry Kinsella murdered her. This has all the ingredients I love in a thriller; a big beautiful house, an isolated and atmospheric island, a close-knit community who are keeping secrets, strong and complex characters and, of course, murder but underpinning it all is an astute and powerful story of coercive control and psychological abuse.
What would you recommend as the best summer reads for 2021? Let us know in the comments below!